Create B-movie poster art

Everything from desktop scans to bitmap images is useful when it comes to creating authentic B-movie poster art. Derek Lea explains how unconventional methods can yield stunning results in Illustrator.

Sometimes the look of cheapness has a strong appeal. The traditional B-movies from the 50s and 60s were prime examples of cheapness. Originally they were no more than simple marketing strategies to get people into the theatres. They were often garish and tasteless to the point of insulting your intelligence. However, in that cheapness, that lack of intelligence, lies a certain timeless charm.

That charm is evident, most of all, in the poster art of that period. Blood-dripping typography and scantily clad women litter the scenes. Photos were cropped in a choppy manner, large halftone screen patterns ensured acceptable reproduction by even the shadiest printers, brush strokes remained visible in quick and dirty illustrations, and garish colours were used to grab attention.

But as the years passed, collectors latched on to these unlikely masterpieces, finding beauty in their camp sincerity and less-than-perfect execution. And here we find ourselves, recreating this imperfection in Photoshop, an application built for perfection. A tad ironic when you think about it. We're going to show you how to exploit the Photoshop toolset to not only mimic the imperfect techniques of the old days, but also to create wonderfully sharp and clean illustrations within your camp poster designs.

A number of elements you see here reside in the support files as desktop scans, but before they wound up there, we had to execute a few real-world techniques of our own. You see, in order to create convincing crumpled effects, we printed out many elements and crumpled up the pages by hand. Sometimes, the best way to get a real-world effect is to simply start with the real thing. And it's within the Channels palette, as you'll soon see, that these distressed desktop scans will become raw material for the imperfect bits and pieces within these compositions.

As for perfection, well, that starts with a photograph. Rather than reaching for the ever predictable Adobe Illustrator Live Trace button, we'll show you how to painstakingly trace details from your images by using the Pen tool. And finally, to finish things off, we'll show you a few innovative bitmap tricks that transcend the predictable when it comes to working with image modes and alpha channels.

Click here to download the support files (645KB)

Click here to download the tutorial for free